It is so detailed and beautiful.


New job

July 28, 2007

I just got a new job.  I’m the newest adjunct professor in the philosophy department at the local community college.  For now, I’ll be teaching two classes:  Intro. to Philosophy and Non-Western Philosophy.  The rest of the time, I’ll keep studying for my oral exams and preparing to write my dissertation.

So, any pointers?  What sort of philosophy would you want to cover in an introductory class?  What answers do you need questioned?

Turkey Trot

July 26, 2007

I grew up in Pyatt, Arkansas, a hamlet ten miles to the west of Yellville, the county seat of Marion County. Every October, Yellville hosts, and has hosted for over 50 years, a festival called the Turkey Trot. It’s a fall event–cool air and leaves–and is typical of these small town celebrations: fair food, a parade with homemade floats and local high school marching bands. But the Turkey Trot is special, too.

What makes it special? Well, there’s a turkey calling contest where some ol’ boys ( and girls) sound just like turkeys, with and without mechanical assistance. I’d have to say that my own brother can imitate the turkey’s song pretty well. And there’s a Miss Turkey Trot contest, but I suppose that’s not so unique.

The Turkey Trot is particular and notable and strange and wonderful because small airplanes fly over Yellville’s town square and drop live turkeys onto the crowd below. You catch one, you get to keep it to do with it as you want. In my travels around, I’ve told a lot of people about the turkey drop, and many have turned bald-faced disbelief my way. Then I tell them, “Wait! That’s not all. One year, the animal rights people protested and so they decided to drop frozen turkeys instead. They were like Butterball bombs!” Even more disbelief.

Once when I was in college in New York City (so far from Pyatt), I saw a nice hipster girl wearing a tight green t-shirt that read “Turkey Trot, Yellville, Arkansas.” Normally bashful around girls, I ran right over to her and gushed, “You’ve been to the Turkey Trot?!” She looked at me with confusion and maybe a little fear then remembered her t-shirt. She smirked and said, “No. I got this at a thrift shop.” Ironic t-shirt bites true experience in the ego. I skulked off.

Anyhow, I’ve done some looking into the frozen turkey bombs, as I don’t actually remember the buildings exploding. I’ve come to the conclusion that the frozen turkey drop was a rumor started from someone making a knowing joke against those “crazy animal rights people,” though it may also be some kind of permutation from this scene from WKRP in Cincinnati:

I did some more reading and found the following on Wikipedia concerning the Turkey Trot:

One of the longest traditions in Yellville is the annual Turkey Trot festival. Beginning in 1945 with the first turkey dropped from the roof of the Marion County Courthouse, the festival continues today. It is held every second weekend of October with the best-known attraction being live turkeys that are dropped from airplanes over the town square. October 2005 marked the 60th anniversary of this festival. The 1970s television show, WKRP in Cincinnati, parodied the turkey drop on one of their best-known episodes. Yellville and the Turkey Trot Festival were also included in the American supermarket tabloid The National Enquirer in 1989 with photographs of the festival and commentary on animal cruelty. Due to the bad press, the turkey drop ceased for a few years. It has since resumed. The Turkey Trot festival also includes a Miss Turkey Trot Pageant, a Miss Drumstickz Competition (best legs), dinners, musical entertainment, a 5 kilometer run, a parade (which has included former Arkansas governor and current presidential candidate Mike Huckabee, and a nationally recognized turkey calling contest sponsored by the National Wild Turkey Federation. Crafts and tools related to the hunting of wild turkeys are also sold in streetside booths along the town square. Entertainment at Turkey Trot has ranged in recent years from famous acts like John Conlee singer of “Rose Colored Glasses” and Jeannie Kendall from the Grammy-award winning group The Kendalls, to more local entertainment by area groups such as The Muddles, Joe Sasser and Friends, and Carnes McCormack.

Joe Sasser was my 6th grade teacher and taught me a song I love to sing called “Down in the Arkansas.” I found a clip of an old timer singing the song with verses that I didn’t know before. Click here to listen.

World Wonders

July 12, 2007

I’m sure you’ve heard that there is a new complement of world wonders.  The  new Seven Wonders of the World are:

  1. the Great Wall of China;
  2. the pyramids of Chichen Itza;
  3. Petra;
  4. the Taj Mahal;
  5. Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio;
  6. the Colosseum; and
  7. Machu Picchu.

These new wonders were chosen by a global internet-based vote.  People from around the world could vote for wonders near and far–this is why a relatively new statue of Jesus Christ stands among relatively ancient architectural wonders.  Jesus can obviously win an election, as long as he doesn’t speak or move.

The only remaining wonder of the old Seven Wonders are the pyramids at Giza.  The Egyptian minister in charge of antiquities, Zahi “Sour Grapes” Hawass, said that the new competition had no value, and then he said this:


What’s shocking about this statement is not its content–it is undoubtedly true–but rather that Mr. Hawass said it with no irony.  He means it, he supports it, he revels in the patrician comfort of these words.

Of course, this means that history is not actually a faithful record of the past (as the foolish masses assume).  Instead it is the carefully scripted and coercive “memory” of the powerful.

What better metaphor for this than the pyramids themselves, like fascist monuments rising from the desert.

This evening, our power was out for three hours as a result of a hailstorm. Not to be outdone by the weather, we set ourselves to taking photos and videos on the back porch. Lately, my son Tom has been in a very patriotic summer program at Alex’s church. I’m generally uncomfortable with patriotic displays, especially at church, as I find them idolatrous. But I’ll make an exception this time due to Tom’s exceedingly cute innocence.

I guess I forgot to mention that Tom is a baseball-playin’, no-shirt-wearin’ cowboy.





You’ll have to turn your head sideways for this one:


July 2, 2007

The cicadas are in full song. Today I saw my first molted cicada skin clinging to the fence.


My boy Tom is learning to identify such things as insect noises. He is fascinated by crickets and is tuned in to the cicadas’ drone as well–though he does not agree with me on their name.

Tom: “I hear a potato.”

Brett: “It’s called a cicada. Can you say ‘cicada’?”

Tom: “No. It’s a potato.”

The summer before my mother died, I came home to help her get to her radiation therapy. In the years I had been gone, the space in the house that I had previously occupied filled up with other things and projects, so I lived in a pickup camper trailer on blocks in the yard. I worked the night shift at a factory so as to be available to drive her to the hospital in the morning. That summer, the dark and the trees spread over the camper, and when I arrived home at 4am and climbed into the bunk over where the cab would be, the cicadas’ two-tone glissando often kept me up until the sun rose.